Earlier in this series we took a look at who your readers might be and tried to nail down some details, including their age, gender, and so forth. We also examined your own work to see if it had any patterns — did it fit into any genres or sub-genres? Was it about certain themes? What was it trying to say?
Then we looked at where you as a writer might stand on a scale of writing, at the top of which was the viable career which this prospectus is all about. It’s likely that you are positioned somewhere about halfway up — you have an inkling of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, but not a clear enough one to generate viability yet.
Along the way, we’ve taken some detours into counter-cultural thinking to try to shatter any bonds that today’s cultural framework may be exerting on you, and we’ve looked at the practicalities of having a writing space and schedule so that you can disentangle what you do and who you’re trying to be from actually creating the products you need to have if you’re going to succeed.
The purpose is to move you up from just having an inkling of what it is that you’re trying to achieve, and being driven mainly by emotional impulses to write and to create emotional effects upon your readers, to a point where you are fully alert to what you’re doing. This prospectus is designed to get you to step back from partly conscious or simply emotional motivation as a writer and move into a whole new sphere in which work streams out confidently and, because it is so clear, attracts a definite and viable niche audience.
What we have to do now is take the self-examination you did earlier and expand upon it.
You need to look over your life as a whole and work out where your writing fits into it and why. The following exercise may help.
Write down your answers to the following questions:
1. How does your writing give you individual pleasure? Is it good for your mental health to produce stories? How exactly do you feel when you complete a well-written piece?
2. How does your writing help your family or close relationships? Is writing assisting your romantic life in some way? How exactly does your immediate family feel when you complete something?
3. How does your writing fit into your income plans? Does writing form the basis of a career scheme? How exactly does it feel when you get paid for a story?
4. How does your writing forward a broader cause? Are there spiritual/environmental/moral reasons why it’s important for you to get your work out there? How exactly does your work contribute to the forward movement of something larger?
Really work over these questions until you have meaningful and legitimate answers to each one. This may mean working at them and then putting them aside and coming back to them later. Don’t necessarily settle for your first answer — that may be glib and superficial. What you want are answers which resonate with you, answers which you may never have spotted before.
If you write several different kinds of fiction for different niche markets, go through these questions in relation to each one.
When you have all this straight you should have a much clearer picture of what you’re trying to achieve as a writer.
This is a hefty assignment and can easily be abandoned in frustration, because it’s tapping into fundamental drives and forces which are not normally examined. You may take some days to complete it properly, if not longer. But one thing should begin to emerge, however vague and shadowy: you may begin to detect a sense of duty about your work. In other words, you may have thought of your writing as an idle hobby or at best a selfish pastime, about which at times you felt pangs of guilt, especially if it has made you no money — but as you pursue answers to some of the questions above, a different perspective can begin to reveal itself: you can start to feel as though you’re supposed to be writing, and that not to continue would be a betrayal of a kind. This isn’t a betrayal of you or your creative urges, but a betrayal of a cause larger than yourself.
Think of it like this: there’s a void out there in the world which is shaped exactly like your fiction. Only your fiction will fit it. Unless you write the stories and get them into the hands of the right readers, this void will remain achingly empty. You have a duty to fulfil.
The more this shadowy void becomes apparent, the happier and more motivated you will feel about your writing.